In the past 5 years I’ve had and so far, successfully cultivated 2 babies. I had a baby girl in the British winter and a baby boy in perennial Asian sunshine. I suspect that I’ve spent the equivalent of a significant luxury car on items for and related to them, not least because for the reasons just mentioned there was little opportunity for hand me downs from one to the other. Anyway, I’m not writing this to stop you making my mistakes, because frankly, I quite enjoyed making the mistakes and I don’t want to deny anyone the pleasure. Maybe, though, just maybe, there will be something in here that will help you get a few more miles to the gallon for your own personal metaphorical Ferrari.
- The Transport
I can safely say, if I had my baby time again, with regard to prams and buggies, I’d still have very little idea what this little minefield is actually all about. My experience was, at 5 months pregnant, me and (fake willing) husband went to the Baby Show at the NEC. We had an open mind, an open wallet, an open boot coupled with the naïve glow of soon to be parents who have no idea what they are letting themselves in for.
We bought ourselves a Maclaren XLR travel system. Whilst the sales lady did her pitch about attachments, suitability from birth, safety specifications etc., the following things were running through the pre-parental Wilsons minds. Dad: Don’t Maclaren make racing cars? Me: the colour is called CHAMPAGNE!! Within days our ride arrived in several packages that my stepmother was able to assemble for us. We were entirely happy with our purchase. That was until we experienced the phenomenon that is ……. “other people’s prams”.
So shortly after our purchase, it became evident that the pram of choice for mums of a certain genre (ie mine) was the Bugaboo Bee. This is the high spec Lexus of the buggy world. It is pricey, but stylish, in a range of nice pretty colours, of which I believe a champagne “type” is available. On chatting to owners, allegedly it is also great at turning, easy to collapse and light, with a massive shopping basket. None of these traits particularly out trumped my Maclaren, but I do admit to feeling a bit left out, like someone in the 70s with a Betamax video.
Then I saw someone with a Phil and Teds. What a beast! It looked like one of those long nosed racing cars with (sort of) actual car wheels. Later that year on a park walk in the snow, it showed its merits when that mum got home in time for Neighbours while the rest of us just about made it back for Panorama.
Then there was Posh Spice in Heat pushing an I-Candy. This one was so SHINY! In my simple world shininess out trumps most other features in most product categories. That was my first experience of true buggy envy.
The thing is though, from what I can see, most kids end up in a Maclaren at some point, so maybe we didn’t do so badly. I just wish it had been more shiny!
- The Clothes
Baby clothing is soft and cute. It is also an area of potentially gargantuan wastage. With my first born, I had a baby shower in July when it was sunny. I accrued 23 short sleeved rompers in sizes covering 0-6 months. No exaggeration. Holly’s 1st – 6th months (September – March) required significant sleevage. It is with this in mind that I massively encourage secondhand acquisition of baby clothes because it will be highly likely that some will be barely, perhaps even never worn. The problem arrives however when a baby reaches the weaning stage and is exposed to the phenomenon that is ORANGE FOOD. Orange food stains everything forever. Make hay while the food is white.
The second point on clothing is on the subject of outfits. Many people will say not to bother with these because all you need for the first few months are sleep suits. Are you kidding? Have these people never seen a little baby girl’s feet in soft pink tights? Have they never seen a baby boy in a teeny AC DC t-shirt? My case rests on this final point. My baby Holly, probably the cutest in the world, lost out at the Chertsey Bonny Baby contest to a little boy dressed in a tweed suit. That happened.
- The Accessories
I read something recently about how big the universe is, which is infinite. I think that this is also true of the number of available accessories for babies. With this in mind I am going to focus on just 2: Slings and Changing Bags.
Slings: For me, there was a distinct difference in sling usage across 1st and 2nd babies. First time round it was to look cute, second time around it was to be able to leave the house. So I guess what I’m saying is you can’t go wrong with a sling. It’s either cute or essential. And, though mine rarely did, I’ve seen babies asleep in slings for HOURS… (even in soft plays).
Changing Bags: I’ve been a fan of bags for about 85% of my life, so the nappy bag purchase was one that excited me. 5 years on, I still remain disappointed by the offer. I have never felt nappy bag envy and it’s a negative sentiment I longed to feel. I settled for the closest thing to a happy place, which was a polka dot Cath Kidston, both practical and pretty. I’m now just in the market for any old big bags so the moment has passed for me, but for future bag loving mummies, I hope the industry doesn’t disappoint you too.
- The Toys
In 2009, I lived in a house that didn’t really contain any toys other than the odd teddy and promotional Andrex puppy. Now, in 2015, my home is 67% toys. The ratio of plastic to wicker has reversed in plastic’s favour dramatically. I hereby present you with two points of interest:
a) The fickleness of babies.
When Holly was born I was given a “Taggy”, a square of fluffy material surrounded by tags of other material in many lovely shades and textures. The giver told me her children LOVED them. Holly refused to acknowledge its existence. “But Holly, it’s a TAGGY”, I would say to her, but no, zero interest. It was similar with Sophie Le Giraffe, the must have toy designed to miraculously soothe teething babies. Holly eventually did bond with a toy. She was 2 years and 5 months by that point and the objective of her still begrudging affection was a singing Barney dinosaur. Ben, after the obligatory offers of the Taggy and Sophie, settled on sucking the very existence out of the legs of a small blue Mothercare snuggly.
I could not have predicted either of these two outcomes, nor are they the same as any other kids I know. You’ve just got to work it out.
b) Three toys that seem to delight ALL toddlers
These are the IKEA cooker, the IKEA circus tent and the Little Tikes red and yellow push along/sit in car. Everyone I know who has a toddler has these as do most local businesses that need to provide a toddler distraction area. If one of the cars appears on any of the secondhand selling sites out here in Malaysia, it goes within seconds. It’s a while since I’ve toddled, so I have no idea why they appeal, but believe me, they do.
- The Memorabilia
Over the past 4 years, I have accrued the following: 2 bracelets, 4 sets of cufflinks with foot and handprints of each child, photos from 6 professional photo shots, footprints on ceramics and baubles, 4 large IKEA boxes of first shoes/rompers/hospital bracelets and a growing box of every greeting card that I have either sent to them or them to me (via Daddy). Whilst this is saving memories of things I could never forget in a billion years either way, I still love every little bit of it.
And so, to conclude, I would say shopping for babies is like Dorothy trying to get home from the land of Oz. I can tell you how to do it, but you’ve just got to work it out for yourselves. So, when bargains come along snap them up, afterwards pass ‘em on… but mostly jump in, rev it up and enjoy the metaphorical ride.
Contributed by our guest blogger Jackie Wilson. Jackie has worked extensively in marketing for brands including Twinings, Del Monte, Kingsmill and Cathedral City. She is now living the ex-pat dream in Malaysia. She’s mum to two lovely children and is combining looking after them with some freelance writing, most recently for Bonda, the magazine for Malaysia’s equivalent of the NCT and ABWM Mag (Association of British Women in Malaysia). Her Malaysian journey is chronicled at http://firstname.lastname@example.org or if you’d like to get in touch she can be found at Jackie.email@example.com.